Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 09:23 UK

Cavehill diamond glitters again

Are there diamonds in Belfast's Cavehill?

It is the stuff of legend... a great big cricket ball of a lump of precious stone called the Cavehill Diamond.

Balladeers crooned songs about the precious gem on Belfast's street corners down the centuries.

People with nothing dreamed of the untold wealth that might be hidden under their feet on the city's hillside... and their eyes glittered.

But now the true Cavehill diamond has been found. It is in the care of the Linenhall Library.

For those planning a heist, stop now. The diamond is a large lump of quartz, about the size of a cricket ball. It glitters but it isn't a girl's best friend.

Musician and singer Maurice Leyden included a song about the diamond in his book: Belfast City of Song.

"There is a legend that goes back to the 1800s when people were talking about diamonds being embedded in the face of Belfast's Cavehill," he said.

"There were stories that ships sailing up Belfast Lough used to guide themselves in - they would talk about seeing this glinting diamond.

"There were also stories of ships firing cannonballs at it so that they could dislodge the diamond and, no doubt, pocket it."

Hat shop

The diamond was pocketed by a local boy who sold it to John Erskine. He displayed it in his North Street hat shop in Belfast until 1887.

The story was that he sold it for a good price to Madame Tussauds in London. But he didn't.

Instead, it stayed in the family and was passed down to his grandson Jack and his wife Ada. Dean Norman Barr married them in 1961.

Neither of them seemed very interested. They didn't open the box more than three or four times in all their marriage, he said.

So, after her husband's death, Ada entrusted it to Dean Barr who gave it to the library.

"The Cavehill diamond is secure for as long as the Linenhall Library stands. I felt that the Linenhall was a very suitable place for it," he said.

The Linenhall was delighted.

"We are ecstatic," said Rachel Wetherall, the libary's PR and Marketing Officer.

"When we found out that it had been discovered and when we heard that it was going to be given to the library, we were even more excited. It is a cultural icon and the Linenhall is a cultural icon," she said.

The Cavehill Diamond is currently being analysed. The stuff of myth and legend will be on display at the library from next month.

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